This post is part of a series called, “Real People, Real Names,” a compendium of stories and pictures about people and their names.
Names are basically one or two-word stories. When we see a person’s name, we paint an idea of what to expect before we even meet them. And each person has their own version of a story about their own name. You see, this is what I do. When I meet people, I talk to them about their names. And that’s the purpose of this series of posts. You get to walk into my world a little bit and read about real people and what they think of their names.
If you would like to be considered for this series, use the contact form on this site to reach me.
Today’s Guest: Mudita Sabato
Mudita has a mathematical mind which she has applied in a career both in the financial industry (she previously worked for Meryl Lynch and the KC Board of Trade) and working with small businesses. But she also has a more artistic, spiritual side as well. She’s a Sufi guide. And a Whirling Dervish. She teaches classes on both and shares her enthusiasm for the peace they can bring to today’s troubled minds. She’s lived in India where she studied Tibetan Buddhism. She also has her own business where she works with people to uncover their life archetypes. To say this was a fascinating interview is an understatement. Her name, Mudita, means boundless joy and Mudita in all of her 5’ 2” frame imbues joy and passion at every turn.
Below are excerpts of my interview with Mudita.
Tell me about the name your parents selected for you.
My parents originally wanted to call me Susan but people told them it wouldn’t be right to name a child Susan Sabato. Actually my mom was sort of slow to name me. She had a difficult labor and was in the hospital for a week and for that entire week I was nameless. I guess the hospital refused to let her leave without giving me a name, so she named me Cecily after a French character in a book her grandmother was reading. It’s a good name because it means “lily of the moon.”
Growing up did you have any nicknames?
Oh yes. Some people called me Pee Wee because of my size. Others called me Toboggan, a play on the sound of my last name.
So why did you changed your name to Mudita?
Well, first I would have to give you some background. I’m a Sufi initiate. One meaning of the word Sufi is wisdom. I’m an ordained Sufi minister, which means I officiate weddings, funerals, christenings, and house blessings. I also officiate over what we call Services of Universal Peace. Being a Sufi is about having true experiences.
How did you become a Sufi Minister?
Years ago I found a Sufi guide. I also attended Sufi camps where hundreds of people gather to learn about the Sufi path. There are 12 levels of initiation on the Sufi path and I’ve been walking this path over 23 years now.
We are all more than what we think we are and present to the world, but it’s all compiled together under one name and that’s what we strive to become.
So was it the Sufi teacher who suggested you change your name?
Yes. In fact, I grew up catholic, but I spent a lot of time questioning life in my early twenties. That’s how I found Sufism in the first place. Interestingly enough, my sister and I discovered it at about the same time.
People are so interesting. We’re always trying to label things. Including ourselves. We’re always trying to make ourselves more defined. I like to think of a wheel analogy. Imagine you have a wheel and you take it apart and lay all the pieces down in front of you. Are all the pieces on the ground still a wheel? We are all more than what we think we are and present to the world, but it’s all compiled together under one name and that’s what we strive to become.
When you’re initiated as a Sufi, your guide assigns you a name. Each name has meaning and the name assigned to you is usually a quality you’re moving toward. So, for example, if you’re not very grateful or giving, you might be called Shakur which means gratefulness.
During my first Sufi initiation, my teacher gave me the name Fatima Medina.
So did everyone call you Fatima or just the people within the Sufi tradition?
How did your family react to the change?
My mom was supportive of the name Fatima because it sounds like the name of the holy saint, Our Lady of Fatima.
And now you’re Mudita. Do you change your name with each level of initiation?
Oh no! In fact, most Sufis are given one name and that’s it. I was given the name Mudita about 10 years ago reflecting the huge life transformations that had occurred for me. When I was given the name Fatima I had just become a Sufi after a lifetime of being catholic. For a while I studied Native American Indian traditions and learned from a Lakota Sioux teacher. From there I studied Hinduism and Islam, before I finally settled in with being a Sufi. I was in a completely different place then.
In the meantime I traveled to Northern India where I lived and studied Tibetan Buddhism. I’ve had two Tibetan high teachers tell me (if there is such a thing as previous life), I was probably a Tibetan monk before.
I hadn’t seen my Sufi guide in quite awhile and when he saw me after all the traveling and studying and life changes he said I was different and needed a new name. It’s very unusual to have a second name change. He named me Mudita.
So I have to ask, what does Mudita mean?
Buddhism has four boundless states that some people call the Four Immeasurables. It’s said that if you can achieve one then you can achieve all of them. These levels are:
Metta which means boundless love or loving-kindness
Karuna which means compassion
Mudita which means sympathetic (boundless) joy
Upekkha which means equanimity
He said he selected the name Mudita because of my ability to share in the joy of others.
I’m curious, how did your family react to this second name change?
When I told my mom that my name was now Mudita she was upset. She said that Fatima was such a beautiful name and she asked me to continue to use it.
I feel at each moment I’m trying to impregnate the air around me with joy.
So your mom was more upset about this name change than the first one?
Yes. Even a year later she and my sister asked me to go back to the name Fatima because they thought it was beautiful. I told them that my name is now Mudita and it was given to me as a blessing.
The story of Adam and Eve is an illustration about how we’re born into a reality of name and form. As a result we’re always trying to name things in order to identify them. Names have a sound quality that has significant bearing on us as humans. There are a couple of books that describe the different names of god and how we can use these names to help heal our inner selves. If you need more of something in your life, you can select the corresponding name of god and meditate upon that.
You said your sister is a Sufi. Did she change her name too?
Her name was Stephanie but her Sufi name is Nuria which means divine light. Both my sister and I have lived in India at different times over the years. I traveled there again after a recent trip of hers and while I was in a town that was probably three to four day’s travel from the town where my sister stayed, a monk asked if I was Nuria’s sister. We’re a few years apart in age but we look that much alike.
When I was a kid people would ask me my name and I would say, Cecily Sabato and they would respond, “Hi, Stephanie.” I think we’ve always felt connected like that.
I teach whirling as a source of meditation. It’s part of my path to understand true essence. There’s a lot of suffering in the human heart. A lot of people don’t really understand their suffering and instead find ways to bury it deeper, but they know they’re unhappy. Whirling is one way to help heal that suffering. The whirling comes from the tradition of Mevlana Jelaladin (Rumi), from the 12th century. I don’t know if you’ve read any Rumi poetry, but if you ever feel like you need a friend, read Rumi. He understood the nature of life and existence.
As a whirling dervish you spend time meditating to movement. It’s basically a dance. I’m teaching a class at Unity Temple on the Plaza where we learn to whirl to the poetry of Rumi and meditational music. It’s a wonderful class!
Sounds very inspiring. Is this what motivates you?
Definitely, I like teaching and helping others. I feel at each moment I’m trying to impregnate the air around me with joy. I think I can be a little intense at times, but it is who I am. I love being with people and I like to help them find ways to heal their suffering. I’m teaching a class on Tibetan Buddhism and I’m also organizing a guided meditational trip to India for 2011. I’m calling it Caravan of the Loving Heart and we’ll be visiting Sufi, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh and Bah’I Temples. It will be a pilgrimage for those who choose a deep experience without paying high prices and are willing to travel in a modest way so that we can keep the trip affordable.
This has been such an interesting interview. As we conclude, are there any parting thoughts you would like to share?
We all have received the precious gift of human birth. We should be careful not to flitter it away. The Buddhists say to practice dharma like your hair is on fire. I want to be this – to be aware and alive and to help others find their way as well.
I wish to express many thanks to Mudita Sabato for her time discussing her name with me. Mudita is in the process of developing her website, so look for it in the future.
To read the original article, please visit Namely Marly